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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Nate Monteith came tantalizingly close to a podium finish in the 2012 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national point race. He’ll soon be helping another driver try to eclipse his mark.
Monteith, 31, of Blountville, Tenn., finished fourth in national standings, two points behind third place finisher C.E. Falk III.
Monteith had an impressive season, winning his second consecutive NASCAR Late Model track championship and state title racing at Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway, a .375-mile banked concrete oval. He scored 10 feature wins there for the second consecutive season and improved on his 10th place finish in the 2011 national point race.
“The competition at Kingsport is tough,” Monteith said. “Our car counts were up and we stepped up our program. Very rarely did we have less than 20 cars. All the heavyweights dropped in during the season.”
Visiting drivers included 2012 national champion Lee Pulliam, 2012 South Boston (Va.) Speedway champion Matt Bowling, and 2012 South Carolina state champion Anthony Anders.
“We raced against Lee seven times between Kingsport and Southern National (Motorsports Park in Kenly, N.C.) and finished ahead of him every time,” Monteith said. “We proved we are a national championship caliber team ourselves.”
There is no off season for Monteith this year. He and his team are spending winter months preparing a new car for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model portion of the UNOH Battle at the Beach at Daytona International Speedway Feb. 18-19. The all-star event will be contested on a .4-mile paved oval located on the backstretch of the superspeedway. The top 10 drivers in the final NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national standings received locked-in starting spots for the main event. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tours and NASCAR K&N Pro Series will also be featured in the Daytona event.
“We were tracking our place in national points from very early in the season because we wanted to get a starting spot in the Battle,” Monteith said. “We’re building a straight-rail frame race car for me to race in the Battle that I’ll also drive in selected events in 2013.”
Monteith won’t defend his track and state titles next year. He’ll remain as car owner with the entire team intact. Blake Jones, 15, of Sevierville, Tenn., moves into the driver’s seat of Monteith’s No. 44 NASCAR Late Model. The team will continue to be based at Monteith’s Blountville, Tenn., race shop. Wade Day of WD Performance, who was crew chief for both Monteith and Jones in 2012, will continue those responsibilities with Jones in 2013.
“We’re working fulltime with Blake on a driver development program,” Monteith said. “Wade is a big key because he’s been Blake’s crew chief right along. We’ve all worked together. We’ll have the second car for me to race in special events now and then.”
Racing a mixed schedule of events in 2012, Jones appeared in a majority of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model features at Kingsport. He finished as high as second and posted seven top fives and 14 top 10s starting 16 events of 20 race schedule. Despite missing four races Jones placed 10th in Kingsport point standings.
Jones, who will turn 16 on Jan. 12, finished the season in surprising fashion. As a substitute driver at a track he had never seen, he started last in a 35-car field and finished second in the Thanksgiving Classic 200 at Southern National on Nov. 25. Greg Edwards, the 2012 NASCAR Late Model champion at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va., won the event. Jones also made two NASCAR K&N Pro Series East starts in 2012 at Bristol, Tenn., and Greenville, S.C., posting finishes of 29th and 23rd respectively. Jones’ dad fielded the K&N Pro Series cars through his Teddy Jones Racing team.
Monteith’s 2012 Tennessee state championship record at Kingsport includes 10 wins, 18 top fives and 18 top 10s in 20 starts. For the national point race Monteith also made starts at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C., and Southern National. His overall record in the national point race was 10 wins, 23 top fives and 27 top 10s in 33 starts.
Monteith made significant changes in his racing program in 2012. Day came aboard as crew chief. As a driver Day won a NASCAR regional championship and Kingsport track title in 2000. Monteith also switched to engines built by Jeremy Upchurch of Ultratech Race Development.
“We started out pretty strong with a pole and a win. Then we started to lose ground over the next few weeks,” Monteith said.
With just a few early season races completed, Monteith made the call to overhaul his chassis and install a new Performance Center Racing Warehouse front clip on his LTO chassis.
“It was risky decision but it was the right decision,” Monteith said. “We thought the car was ready for the year, but problems came up that we didn’t expect. Racing at Kingsport is physical even on your race car. It can wear on your equipment. We found some fatigue in the front end.”
The updated car was faster and Monteith got back to winning. He was undefeated at Kingsport in July.
Trying to wring every point out of the final weekend of the series’ season in September, Monteith competed in double features at Southern National on consecutive days. In Friday’s make-up date he posted finishes of seventh and second. The following day he had finishes of 13th and fifth. At Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va., on Saturday, Falk won two-50 lap features which were enough to nudge Monteith from third to fourth in final national standings.
Monteith was honored for his track and state championships at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards event earlier this month at the Charlotte Convention Center’s Crown Ballroom at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
A driver’s best 18 results through Sept. 16 counted toward their states and national point totals, and the champions were decided on overall point total. Once a driver reached 18 starts, their total would increase incrementally as they replace some poorer runs with better results.
Under the point structure for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the race winner receives two points for every car in the event up to 20 cars. Second place receives two fewer points and so on through the field. Race winners receive an additional five points. For example, if 20 cars are in the field, the winner receives 45 points, second place 38 and third 36. If there are 15 cars, the winner receives 35 points, second 28 and third, 26.
Nate Monteith (No. 44) and Blake Jones (No. 80) battle for the lead in a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock feature at Kingsport Speedway. Randall Perry photo courtesy Kingsport Speedway